Posted Dec 2 2011 2:39PM
To get ready for the 2011-12 season, NBA.com StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.
It's only been 18 months since the Phoenix Suns were playing in the Western Conference finals. But only five players -- Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez -- remain from that team and the Suns are coming off their worst season since they brought Nash back to Phoenix in 2004.
The Suns find themselves at a crossroads, with little hope to contend, little ability to surround Nash with more talent, and few building blocks for the future. They're stuck in the NBA's no-man's land and the only way out may be to trade their franchise player.
Pace: 96.8 (8)
OffRtg: 107.0 (9)
DefRtg: 107.4 (25)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The Suns have been an unbalanced offensive team (where their offensive ranking is at least 10 spots better than their defensive ranking) since they signed Nash seven years ago. But last season brought an end to Nash's remarkable run of leading the league's best offense.
For nine straight seasons, three in Dallas and six in Phoenix, Nash's team led the league in offensive efficiency. He's had more than 100 different teammates during the run, which included the 2005-06 season, when Amar'e Stoudemire played just three games.
Steve Nash's team efficiency, last 11 seasons
Despite the departure of Stoudemire last summer to New York, the Suns ranked second in efficiency on Dec. 18, when they made a six-player trade with the Orlando Magic. The deal, which sent Earl Clark, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to Orlando for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, gave the Suns some much-needed help on defense, but it hurt them offensively.
Suns efficiency, before and after trade
Both before (115 points per 100 possessions) and after (110) the trade, the Suns were still excellent offensively when Nash was on the floor. He obviously can't play all 48 minutes and all season long, Phoenix was pretty awful when he was on the bench (scoring just 100 points per 100 possessions).
The previous season, the Suns' offense fell off when Nash left the floor, but still scored 108 points per 100 possessions without him. Overall, only two teams (Cleveland and Atlanta) regressed more offensively from 2009-10 to last season than the Suns did.
The biggest drop-off in the Suns' offense when Nash was on the bench came from their 3-point shooting. They shot 40.4 percent from beyond the arc (a mark that would have led the league) when he was in the game and just 32.5 percent (a mark that would have ranked 29th) when he wasn't. Nash himself shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range and his teammates shot 40.6 percent when playing with him.
Nine different Suns played at least 300 minutes with Nash last season. And eight of the nine had higher effective field goal and true shooting percentages when Nash was on the floor than when he was on the bench. The only one who didn't was Lopez, who took just 53 shots without Nash and whose numbers were just slightly lower when he was playing two-time MVP.
Gortat and Pietrus helped bring defense back to Phoenix. (Hey, it's all relative.) The Suns allowed just 101 points per 100 possessions in the 509 minutes that Gortat and Pietrus were on the floor together.
Unfortunately, most of those minutes were played without Nash, so the offense struggled. But when Gortat shared the floor with Nash, the Suns were pretty good on both ends of the floor. And their third most-used lineup, which included Nash and Gortat, was downright dominant in almost 200 minutes of action.
Suns most-used lineups
There were only three lineups in the league (the Celtics had two and Dallas had one) that were better in as many minutes as that lineup played.
The area where the Suns' improved most after the trade with Orlando was defending 2-point shots. Before the deal, their opponents were shooting a league-high 52.5 percent from inside the arc. After the deal, the Suns were able to cut that number down to 49.2 percent. And when Gortat was on the floor, Suns opponents shot just 48.0 percent from 2-point range.
When your power forwards are Frye, Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick, you lack interior offense. Among the 181 players around the league that attempted at least 500 shots last season, only five took a lower percentage of their shots from the paint than the 6-foot-11 Frye. And the tallest of the five was Kyle Korver.
Frye took just 17 percent of his shots from the paint. As a team, the Suns attempted a 44 percent of their shots from the paint, which was the fifth-lowest rate in the league. But they shot well from there. Their field goal percentage of 57.4 percent from inside the paint ranked third in the league.
When you don't take a lot of your shots from inside the paint, you also don't get to the line often. And that's the area where the Suns' offense regressed most after the six-player deal. They went from attempting more than 32 free throws per 100 field goal attempts to attempting less than 27.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.
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